When I was a freshman in high school we were given an assignment to write about our hero. I found the assignment pretty dumb; what high school kid has a hero? So I decided to write about someone who may or may not be a hero. I think it started out a little smart ass but there was definitely something to it. I chose to write about my Uncle Walter. (And yes, I heard the collective snort of laughter).
I chose him to be silly, I don't think I could've verbalized my feelings about what a real hero was when I was 15. And I probably wasn't willing to dive that deep into my thoughts either. So I thought it would be most appropriate to write about my beer-drinking, speech-slurring crazy uncle. The man who I was supposed to drive around and road trip with on my 16th birthday (to his credit, he would be the only one drinking), the man who told us to "pour a little beer on it" when we got a scrape or scratch. The man who gets down in his back because when he's had a little too much to drink he also has a little trouble making his way down the street. The man who calls everyone Dickhead, whether it be because he just enjoys calling people that or because he doesn't remember their name, I'll never quite know for sure. And the man who strips at all of his friends' milestone birthdays, probably because he loves to be the center of attention.
But in all seriousness, he is one of the best guys I know. He took care of us when my dad died. He and my step dad call each other brother-in-law (and okay maybe it's more of a joke, but still....). He took care of his wife when she was dying of cancer. He wouldn't dare miss a graduation, shower, wedding or birthday of any of us (and okay he probably would get "double drunk" while he was there, but he'd be there by golly). And he texted me after Reese was born to tell me that "Little Reese Olinger is gonna be something." Notice he couldn't quite bring himself to say "Neal?"
This weekend was his 70th birthday and his girlfriend, daughter, and my mom and stepdad threw him a surprise party at our house. And after all the ways he's been around for us, I wanted to make sure I was there for his big birthday. People brought tons of food, we had karaoke, and there were plenty of beers to go around. It was obvious that there are many people that love him tons, but maybe not as much as we do. So, Uncle Walter, Walt, or Dick, here's to you on your 70th birthday! Here's to many more years of golf, Pepsi Tournaments and Natural Lights. And here's to hoping the population would just "pay attention!" Happy Birthday!!